Like a son but cheaper: harried South Koreans pamper pets instead of having kids
Updated : January 24, 2019 10:10 AM IST
Kang Sung-il buys Sancho, his Pomeranian, a toy every business trip and this Lunar New Year holiday will dress him up in a new $50 suit to visit 'grandma', Kang's mother.
Kang and his wife say children are too expensive and bring too much pressure. Instead they have opted to shower Sancho with love and gifts.
They are not alone. South Korea's pet industry is booming, fuelled by the same factors that have made the country's birth rate, at 1.05 births per woman, the lowest in the world: the high cost of education and housing as well as extremely long working days.
On top of education expenses, an average South Korean household must budget roughly 12.8 years of income to buy a mid-range home, compared to 8.8 years in 2014, data from KB Kookmin Bank shows. Adding to their stress, South Koreans work the third most hours per year among OECD nations, lagging just Mexico and Costa Rica.
The South Korean pet-related industry was worth 2.7 trillion won ($2.4 billion) last year, and that could more than double in size by 2027, according to the Korea Rural Economic Institute.
Pet funeral services are also increasingly popular and the home where Sancho's owner Kang works, now holds more than 10 services a day, compared with 3-5 when it opened two years ago.
In Namyangju, just outside Seoul, Lee Jae-hwan goes for a walk every day carrying an urn with the ashes of his dog Kkotgae, continuing the routine they used to share.
"I've always introduced Kkotgae as my only son, the most loved one in the world," 51-year-old Lee said in a tearful interview at home, next to a ceremonial table with photos, some food and burning incense.
"He never saw the ocean. I wish we had visited together."